Tag Archives: COZI TV

The Twin McGuffin

13 May

May 13, 2014

In films or literature, a McGuffin is a plot device that motivates some action by the main characters but has no bearing on the story. For example, in Psycho, after Janet Leigh dies early on in the famous shower scene, the other characters are pursuing the money she stole. However, the money has nothing to do with the action of the film, concerning Anthony Perkins’ lunatic character Norman Bates. A McGuffin is an irrelevant device to move a story along, usually a mystery.

With that in mind, I was watching an old episode of McMillan and Wife, titled Night Train to L.A., starring Rock Hudson and Susan St. James. In this episode, a policeman was under suspicion of murder. The episode took place on a train and I, being a savvy viewer, immediately suspected a twist coming up when I noticed that one of the minor background characters, a porter, was almost the spitting image of the suspect. I said “Aha! The murder was a setup! The porter wore the suspect’s clothes and shot the victim, them switched back to his uniform.” However, that never happened. The suspect was cleared less than halfway through the show and faded into the general mass of supporting players, and the minor background character remained a minor background character, having only a short comedy sequence with Nancy Walker later in the show.

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Look how much alike these two are. Large forehead and similar receding hairline. Similar mustaches. Same general shape of the head. Even the glasses are the same! They may not be twins, but close enough for some confusion. Why not only cast two actors who look so much alike, but then have them stand next to each other in the foreground a group shot, with the unimportant minor character dead center? McMillan and Wife was not sophisticated enough to try to fool the viewers that way, and never in the show was their similarity remarked on when it could have been an interesting plot point to explore.

I was sure the lookalike porter was a McGuffin, to make me suspect a switch while the real killer remained a mystery, but that didn’t happen. McMillan and Wife is entertaining, if not particularly intelligent television, but I have to think that the producers of that show would notice something that is as plain as the noses on these guys nearly-twin faces.

 

 

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The Lost Super Friends TV Pilot

6 Feb

February 6, 2014

Now that the Batman TV show is finally being released on DVD, they really need to release this lost gem.

In the early 1970’s, Universal Television licensed the Super Friends for a live-action television show. The networks, however, were lukewarm on the idea. It was only a few years since the Batman show was canceled, and live-action TV superhero shows were thought of as only appropriate for Saturday morning kids’ shows. (For example, Isis and Shazam.) Universal, though, had spent a significant amount of money on the Super Friends and was not about to let the concept drop. So instead of producing a pilot, they made what is known as a “back door pilot.” For example, the current show Arrow is giving two episodes over The Flash, rather than producing a separate Flash program. This is a backdoor pilot, where if the reaction is good, The flash will get his own show. (In this case, The Flash is already a done deal.)

The Super Friends premiered as guests on an episode of the popular Universal crime movie-of-the-week, McCloud, in the season seven episode “London Bridges,” starring Dennis Weaver as Marshall McCloud.

In this episode, Chief Clifford called in the Super Friends to help protect jewels belonging to a visiting English noblewoman. Unfortunately, Universal could not afford to license all the Super Friends characters.

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Superman was unavailable, the rights tied up with the upcoming movie, and other characters like Flash and Green Lantern were not considered mainstream enough. The McCloud version of the Super Friends consisted of, from left to right, a man dressed as either a gibbon or a mandrill, a magician, The Mad Hatter (who is a villain in the DC comics), The Easter Bunny, and Batman and Robin.

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During the story, McCloud was made a member of the team; a replacement for The Easter Bunny, whose inability to breathe inside his mask made him a liability.

Unfortunately, the casting was, let’s say, less than ideal. While Robin looked alright, Batman was played by a grumpy old man with a paunch. And even worse, Batman didn’t have a utility belt.

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The story itself was not very interesting. The Super Friends were unable to prevent the theft and McCloud recovered the jewels using his Southern drawl. In fact, the Super Friends only appeared in the first act and were not referred to again until the final act, when Apache Chief showed up late and was sent home by Chief Clifford.

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